“She went over to the mirror...glancing at herself sidelong, as women do who think they have lost their beauty; repudiating a complete reflection.“ - Rosamond Lehman
“Judith! Come on baby! Take a deep breath now. It’s okay, I’m right here.” It was Ross.
“What the hell happened?” he asked as he searched her face for clues, then continued, “I went to the bathroom, told you I’d be right back and the next thing I hear are your screams. What happened?”
She looked up into that beautiful caring face of his. He was truly concerned and shaken. Did he hear HER?
“I must have had a bad dream or something. Yeah, it was just a bad dream. I’m so sorry.” Judith reached up and touched his face, looking for a sign that he accepted that explanation.
He relaxed a little and helped her back up onto the bed where he held her tight and kept reassuring her that everything was okay.
“I feel like such a fool,” Judith whispered to him. “I am so sorry.”
“You had me a little freaked out for a moment when I saw you sitting in the floor with your hands over your ears and screaming.”
“Did you hear anything else?” Judith asked cautiously.
He let out a laugh and looked at her like she was crazy. “Anything else? Like what?”
“Never mind, I guess I get caught up in my own nightmares sometimes.” She closed her eyes and hoped it was just a nightmare. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
“Where is Lily?” Judith said as she jumped off the bed and ran down the hall toward Lily’s room.
“Judith!” He had hold of her arm truly concerned by her mental condition. “She is with Mrs. Henderson, remember? She spent the night there.”
“Oh, my God, Ross I am so sorry. I guess I’m still a little unsettled from the dream,” she apologized.
He walked her back to the bed and kissed her on the top of her head. “I’ll go down and get her. Why don’t you get dressed and I’ll take us all out for breakfast?”
“Okay. I’ll wash my face and try to put myself together. Thank you, Ross. Thank you for being so sweet to me.”
Judith looked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. I look as if I haven’t slept in days, she thought to herself. There were dark circles forming behind the baggage under her eyes. Her skin was pale.
What day is it? She wondered. How long has it been now?
She and Ross had been dating for quite some time, several months, and he had taken his time with her. He never crossed the line until she finally invited him to her bed.
Last night was the turning point for the two of them. There was no turning back. It was done.
All this time they would say good night as he gently kissed her on the lips and then again on her forehead. Then Ross would wait for her to close the door and relock it from the other side. He would always wait a moment longer just on the other side; listening to be sure she was safe before turning to leave; but, not last night.
Judith turned and re-opened the door, “Ross?”
“Babe, is everything okay?” he turned and ran back to her prepared to face whatever dragon lurked nearby.
“No, Ross… it’s just…” she stumbled for words. “Please don’t leave me tonight.”
It seemed like a dream. He was gentle and his hands would warm her heart as they warmed everything they touched. His mouth was soft and told her more in one kiss than anything he could say with words. Ah, but his words were also gentle and loving. How long has it been?
Remember, she thought to herself, remember everything. Keep the memory of last night safe.
He did not hesitate at the invitation to stay with her. Ross took Judith into his arms and held her close to his chest while he stroked her hair. “Are you sure?” He whispered to her.
“I want you to stay, Ross,” she replied, her hands trembling as they held him close.
“Judith Burton.” He breathed out. “Let me love you…”
“Yes.” Was her simple reply, but it was enough.
Ross slowly unbuttoned her blouse and eased it off her shoulders letting it fall to the floor. As he unclasped her bra, he kissed her gingerly on her lips, over and over again, careful not to linger too long.
Ross scooped her up into his arms and carried her to the bed. There, he lay her down and spread her hair out on the pillow and looked at her, just looked at her. “You are so beautiful, Judith, beautiful.”
Clothes disappeared and he was leaning over her, hesitating long enough so she could see him, all of him, in his nakedness… all she could think of was his touch. “Touch me.” She spoke aloud. “Touch me, Ross. I need to feel your touch.”
Ross cupped a breast in his hand as he brought his mouth to her nipple and began to suckle it, sending wave after wave of desire through her.
Neither spoke another word. The language of touch was all they needed as he poured himself over her. Judith left nothing untouched or unexplored. His body was warm and firm. She answered every movement, every stroke and every moan with unbridled lust.
As her moment of climax came, she writhed and exploded in a rush of undulating pleasure unlike anything she had ever experienced before.
Ross followed immediately with his eruption, measured in deep spasms that left him spent and panting for breath as he fell on top of her and held her tight.
For what seemed to be a moment in flight, Judith felt the weightlessness of true love expressed between man and woman… between her and Ross.
As she savored that last memory, Judith could hear Ross and Lily racing up the hall to the front door. Lily was giggling and squealing happily as she made it through the door first. “I won! I won!”
Ross was skipping in behind her pretending to be out of breath and defeated. “You won, alright. Let’s see if Mommy is ready to go and we’ll go have breakfast at the diner.”
“I’m ready,” Judith called from the bathroom as she pinched her cheeks one last time for some color.
The walk to the diner wasn’t that far and the only one talking was Lily. Judith could tell that Ross was watching her and maybe still a bit concerned about this morning. It angered Judith to have such a beautiful evening tarnish by her.
They took a booth at the back and opened their menus. Lily always insisted on sitting next to Ross on his side of the booth. “What do you want, Lily?” Ross asked her.
“Ice cream!” she answered. “I won and I want vanilla ice-cream with strawberries on top.”
Without any hesitation or need for approval from Judith, Ross nodded his head in agreement and said, “Then, vanilla ice cream with strawberries on top it is. You won fair and square.”
Judith couldn’t help but smile at the two of them. It was going to be okay. No more thoughts about HER.
“Judith! Sweetheart!” It was John, one of her clients, walking toward them. Judith dropped her eyes and looked away pretending not to notice. It was too late. He was heading straight for their table.
“Oh, John? Hello.” Judith managed to sound as normal as possible and trying not to make eye contact.
“I won’t intrude dear. I just wanted to ask if it would be okay to change our appointment to Tuesday instead of tonight.
“Of course, John. Why don’t you call me about this later today,” she answered stiffly.
“Appointment?” Ross asked after him.
“John wants to talk to me about cleaning his apartment for him sometime. You know, to earn a little extra to pay the bills,” she offered.
“Yeah, that’s right.” John stammered in agreement and then offered a trite ‘goodbye, nice to have met you’, though they were never introduced.
Ross looked at Judith for a long moment before finally breaking the silence. “We’ve been seeing each other for about five months now, Judith.”
“Yes, about that,” she agreed as she looked down at her menu.
“There are a few things that I wonder about…” he continued.
“Well, can we talk about it later?” she interjected before he could go any further. “Let’s just enjoy our breakfast and then take the girls to the park. Then you and I can talk.”
He stared at Judith for a few seconds more and then dropped it. They ordered their breakfast and vanilla ice-cream with strawberries for Lily. It did not take long for them to eat while most of the conversation was centered on Lily and what she and Mrs. Henderson did the night before. Judith could feel the tension behind his words as he asked senseless question after senseless question.
After breakfast they walked uptown a bit and stopped long enough for Ross to pick up Rose. Hand-in-hand they crossed the street to the park where Lily and Rose ran to the playground with their little girl squeals. Ross reached over and took Judith’s hand and led her to what had become ‘their’ bench.
“How do you do it Judith?” he asked, not taking his eyes off her. “How is it that you are such a good woman, a good mother, and yet no one has come along and swept you off of your feet and made you their own?”
“I don’t know how to answer that.” She was unsettled and beginning to feel so guilty.
“Well, perhaps my next question will be a little easier for you,” he paused. “Do you have ‘feelings’ for me? I mean, I’m falling in love with you and…”
“Ross, stop,” she interrupted. “I’m not ready for this. I do have feelings for you but… Lily.” Judith turned her head and looked away. “I want to take it slow. There is so much we still don’t know about each other…”
“What do I need to know?” He asked.
“There is so much you don’t understand, Ross.” She made an attempt at explaining. “I don’t know where to begin.”
“Let’s just agree to let the past remain in the past and start new – right here – right now,” he offered.
“I wish I could just divide myself from the past that way. I wish I could forget, let it go, as if it all never happened.”
“You can, Judith. We can.”
“It happened, Ross. It all happened and is happening and will continue to happen… You can’t make it stop. You can’t erase it. I’m sorry.” Judith could see the pain in his eyes. She could feel his heart breaking. “Lily! Come on baby, we need to get going. Say goodbye to Rose and let’s head home.”
Lily never questioned her; always a good daughter, doing as she was told without the whining. “Okay, Mommy.”
Judith stood up and turned to face Ross. “Ross, Last night was beautiful, but I need time to think. I don’t want any of us to get hurt.”
She suspected that Ross knew the truth but he never questioned her. After last night, she wondered, how could she just walk away? Would there ever be another night like last night? How was she going to make this work?
Of course, those other men came and went before morning. However, Ross did not leave before morning, so Lily stayed with Ms. Henderson last night so she would not know a man her mommy was not married to, had spent the night. How odd the reasoning was…
But then again, there was the ‘talk’ and the raised eyebrows that were being passed around town about her of late. Yet, he never questioned.
The walk home with Lily was a mine-field of questions. “Why did we have to leave? Rose says I don’t have a daddy. Do I have a daddy? How come he never comes to see me? Do you like Ross? Rose says her mommy doesn’t like you. Do you know Rose’s mommy? Why doesn’t she like you? She says you are just like your mommy. What does that mean? Am I just like you? I want to be just like you.”
“NO!” Judith barked and Lily stopped her rambling. “You are not just like me and you don’t want to be just like me, Lily! Do you hear me? You are not just like me!”
Judith looked down at Lily’s shocked expression. The innocence was slowly seeping away. She knew she had to do something before it was too late. She had to stop the leak so Lily could stay innocent.